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Lightning Ridge gears up for Opal Festival

NSW Governor Margaret Beazly will be opening the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival. PHOTO TWH

It’s been on hold for two years, but the Lightning Ridge Opal and Gem Festival is back on the calendar.

The event will be opened by the NSW Governor Margaret Beazley today at 11:30 am, and people from all over Australia are attending the event.

The Lightning Ridge Opal Festival began in 1971 to celebrate the culture and the character of opal mining in the Ridge and has grown to become the largest event on the Australian opal event circuit.

Home to the world-renowned black opals, Lightning Ridge is the only place in the world these little treasures are found.

Sally Weeks, one of the organisers of the opal festival, said the Opal Festival was a great opportunity to buy opals at field price.

“That is certainly a big attraction, people get to come and buy directly from the miners,” Sally said.

“There will be close to two hundred exhibitors and market stalls will include opals, gems, precious and semi-precious stones, jewelry, tools, and gifts.

“Lapidary clubs will be attending and will be doing some demonstrations of the cutting and polishing of stones, where people can see how the various machines are used and the techniques involved in bringing the stones to life.

“There are opal miners coming from opal fields across Australia, wholesalers and jewelers and anyone involved in the opal industry will be there.

“The famous black opals create interest and excitement among the tourists. They come into the stores in Lightning Ridge and get the opportunity to buy some beautiful opals that have been locally mined,” Sally said.

“There are no two stones the same, they are all unique, and people are still finding opals which is wonderful for the industry, long may it continue”.

Although most of the motels and cabins in town are heavily booked there are still options for camping and caravanning, and the surrounding villages and towns have opportunities for those looking to enjoy the festival.

The Opal Queen Ball, held at the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club, will top off the festival on Saturday night, and Sally Weeks says this is an opportunity to celebrate the women of Lightning Ridge.

“As you can imagine mining towns often become all about the men involved,” Sally said.

“But there are plenty of women out there prospecting, operating machinery, driving trucks, and then there are the women in town that work in various businesses, run businesses, and support all our local community groups at the Ridge.

“So, there is plenty to celebrate about the women of Lightning Ridge,” she said.

The festival runs from the 27th to the 30th of July and opens each day at 9am and entry is free.


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